Aurora alert tonight Dec. 7-8 – minor storm in progress

A rayed arc simmers above bare trees around 11:15 p.m. Saturday night. Credit: Bob King

It’s been a long time, but guess who’s back? Yep – northern lights. As of 9 o’clock (CST) two low arcs of pale green light span the lower half of the northern sky. Not a big deal but easily visible from a dark site even with the moon still shining.

Two arcs of green auroral haze cross from northeast to northwest low in the northern sky during the start of the auroral display this evening (Dec. 7) around 9 p.m. The handle of the Big Dipper is dipped in aurora (center) with the bowl off to the right. Credit: Bob King

Auroras weren’t in the space weather forecast and the most recent satellite maps depicting the auroral oval show them visible much farther north – Minnesota not included. Of course it doesn’t matter what the instruments say tonight. The lights are out and worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully the solar wind will fan them into a brighter, more intense display.

Around 11 p.m. the aurora cut loose with some crisp rays (much better than shown here) and rippling rayed arcs. The red oxygen emission in the top half of the frame looked like a hazy white wash with the naked eye. Credit: Bob King

Right now you’ll need a dark sky with a good northern horizon and a heavy coat to see this small show. Current temperatures across northern Minnesota are all below zero. My thermometer reads -15F. Bundle up!

Northern lights photo taken earlier this week by John Thain of Anchorage, Alaska. Thain used to live in Duluth and work at FOX 21News. He photographed the scene standing on the shore of the Arctic Ocean in Barrow Thursday. Credit: John Thain

UPDATE: The aurora blossomed around 10:30-11 p.m. with some bright rays and dappled arcs. Quieter again by midnight.

11 thoughts on “Aurora alert tonight Dec. 7-8 – minor storm in progress

  1. Too cloudy here. I suppose that although ISON is brighter than magnitude 8, it is going to take a 10 inch scope or larger to see it easily.

    • Edward,
      Well-know, serious comet observer Jakub Cerny could not see anything the morning of Dec. 7 with 25×100 binoculars. No brighter core was photographed either in his group’s remote 24-inch reflector. He estimates that if anything’s there, it’s fainter than 7.6 mag.

  2. I’ve wanted to see the Northern lights ever since I was a child! Sightings in Southeast Michigan aren’t unheard of, but I’ve yet to catch a glimpse of them. I should try going farther North, although I’m not sure I could put up with the frigid temperatures.

    • Hi Gabby,
      Hang in there – you’ll see them. We have a big display at least every few years. I’ll try to give you and other aurora-hungry skywatchers a heads up whenever a display is likely.

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